"The free play of art is the result of mastery. " --Ernst Fischer, The Necessity of Art

"Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them." --Ladybird Johnson

"...a well-trained ear, a well-trained intelligence, a well-trained heart, and a well-trained hand...." --Zoltan Kodaly


Learning Link, 107

I listened to this TED talk initially, solely in order to hear Viktor Frankl speak--knowing there would be wisdom carried in whatever he said--which is exactly what happened.

"Why to believe in others"--about five minutes of rich thoughts.   Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:  "Children have a tendency to live up to what you believe of them" (Ladybird Johnson). 

Listen, here.


Learning Link, 106

"Data-driven".....a phrase we hear often while shaping curriculum and 'best practices'  in education.

There's no doubt about the efficacy of applying detailed feedback to improve our teaching.  It helps to shape our  direction and to fine-tune interactions.

Sometimes, that's true.

Sometimes, relying heavily upon test results to inform decisions can result in an educational environment which stunts creativity, growth, and learning.   

Walking that line is a challenge---one which Seth Godin writes about, in a business context.    Godin supports the use of data to drive growth, when appropriate.  He also says, "Data is not information, and confusing numbers with truth can help you make some bad decisions."

Interested?  Read more of Godin's work, here.


Learning Link, 105

There are times when it really helps to have directions....not that we always choose to follow them, mind you.  But still--it's often good to have a bit of an overview before starting.

One of the many places to start looking  is wikiHow.  As the name implies, it's a compendium of articles created by the users, with ideas about activities  from fixing bike brakes to writing a good thank you letter (a timely topic!).  As with most of these kinds of sites, the information may or may not be totally accurate at every point, but at least it's a good place to start,  I think.

Interested?  Check it out for yourself, here.


Daily Life, 101

Today, in First Grade Music class, a child came up to me with his hand outstretched.

Joey*      Here, this is for you.

Me          Wow, this is a cool rock.  Thank you! But I'll return the penny to you--kids should keep their own money.

Joey*      OK.   The rock is a genuine crystal!

Me         Mmm, I see that.  Very cool--thank you!

At the end of class, the same child came up to me, distraught.

Joey*    I lost my penny! It must've fallen out of my pocket and now I can't find it anywhere.

Me       Well, let's look around a bit.

After a few moments of fruitless searching...

Me      Tell you what, Joey, how about if I just give you another penny? Would that work, or was it a special one?

Joey*    Um....I guess that would be OK.

Me        Hmm, there's no pennies in my change jar.  How about a nickel?

Joey*    How about a quarter instead?

*Joey is, of course, not this budding young financier's real name.


Learning Link, 104

A riveting talk about changing educational paradigms, by a master educator:  Sir Ken Robinson.

Robinson says, "Our best salvation is to  develop this capacity for imagination and to do it systematically through public education and to connect people with their true talents.  We simply can't afford this devastation any more."

On the current prevalence of the ADHD  diagnosis and the drugs used to medicate the condition:   "The arts...and science, and  math....especially  address the idea of aesthetic experience... one in which your senses are operating at their peak, when you're present in the current moment, when you're resonating with the excitement of this thing that you're experiencing, when you are fully alive.  An anesthetic is when you shut your senses off and  deaden yourself to what's happening.  And a lot of these drugs are that: we're getting our children through education by anesthetizing them, and I think we should be doing the exact opposite---we shouldn't be putting them to sleep, we should be waking them up to what they have inside of themselves."

and   "If you're interested in the model of learning, you don't start from this production line mentality....we have to question what we take for granted".

Amazing stuff.  Listen to the whole thing, here.


Daily Life, 100

In Second Grade, several children were having a murmured discussion while taking off their coats before school began.    After a few minutes, one of the kids came over to me.

James*     So, do you believe in Santa Claus or not?

Me           Hmm.  Why are you asking me that, James?

James*     Well.  Some of the kids are saying he's not real.

Me          Hmmm.  What do you think?

James*      I don't know for sure if he is, or not. But I'm going to keep believing anyway, just in case.
                  I'm not taking any chances!

*James, of course, is not this pragmatic child's real name.


Daily Life, 99

OK....here's a 'heads up'  for any reader who may work with children: today (December 21st) might hold some unusual...some might even call it 'loony'.... behavior or events.

You probably already know why, but just in case:  between yesterday and today, there's a convergence of three major events: the  winter solstice, a full moon, and a total lunar eclipse.

Just sayin'.   If you work with kids, you'll know what I mean.

  (And if you don't work with children on a regular basis, let's just say that it's fairly obvious when the full moon occurs each month, or when a big storm is imminent.  I laughed, when someone first suggested that connection to me years ago.  After twenty years in the classroom, I no longer scoff at the idea...)


Learning Link, 103

Some thoughts on learning...from Diana Laufenberg, in an interesting TED talk:

"if we continue to look at education as if it's about coming to school to get the information, and not about experiential learning, empowering student voice, and embracing failure, we're missing the mark....we won't get there with a standardized test, and we won't get there with a culture of 'one right answer'.  We know how to do this better, and it's time to do it better."

More?  Listen, here.


Learning? Link, 102

OK, so there's not really any learning that's gonna happen here.  I just thought this car was too awesome to pass by without comment.

....1930's, meet 2030's...

See for yourself, here.


Learning Link, 101

We tend to hear about schools that are failing our children...but what about the many educators who are succeeding?

I teach Music in two  elementary schools where many of the classrooms are packed with books, vivid learning materials, and lively learning. 

Here's a picture of just what that looks like...it doesn't happen to be in either of my schools, but it looks just like our classrooms.  (There are other great posts on this "Moving at the Speed of Creativity" blog, as well.)

  BTW, if you love reading and would like to have more ideas about teaching literacy, the two books mentioned at the end of this link are great resources.

Check it out, here


Daily Life, 98

In First Grade Music class today, in the middle of playing with the Beanie Babies (to write the melodies on their Music Staff House, of course)...

Me    Allie*, honey, why are you crying?

Allie*    I miss my Dad.

Me     Mmm.....

Allie*   He works late into the night time, so I'm already in bed when he comes home.  And he's asleep when I leave for school in the morning.

Me     Oh,  Allie.  I can see how that would be hard.

The rest of the kids were very quiet...the empathy in the room was palpable.  The  children sitting near Allie patted her shoulder, and one child mentioned that his Dad worked late, too, and it was hard.

Allie*   I guess I'll be OK.  I just miss him.

Allie* is, of course, not this tender-hearted daughter's real name.


Learning Link, 100

11 year old Billy Preston + Nat King Cole, playing "Blueberry Hill"?

Yes, please!

Check it out here.


Learning Link, 99

Fitting topic for a Monday:  the intertwining of complexity and simplicity....and some ideas about both, in a short, excellent TED talk.

More,  here.


Daily Life, 97

We turned our December 'xylophone challenge' into an "inter-galactically filmed TV show!" ,  so that the Martians and other nebulous beings could watch us take solos....

Part of this, of course, involved commercial breaks, hosted by various kids.  Here's a sample...

...in 5th Grade:

Randeh*      OK, folks, let me introduce you to my best friend.  He's always here, you know? Hanging right up here on the wall above the computer, he's Duke Ellington.  Give him a hand!
Now I ask you, people, what kind of parents name their kid Duke?   I mean, come on! Did they not know he was gonna become famous? And now he's Duke?   I mean, really.   Parents, I'm telling you, check out the  Name Change  Baby Book next time!

...in 3rd Grade:

Sarah*       OK, everybody,  you come on down to the Homework Store!  What, your teacher doesn't believe you that your dog ate your homework again?  Well come on down--we got us here a vacuum cleaner that definitely will eat your homework and spit out a note to tell your teacher so.  Only 10 dollars, it's cheap, come on down!

....in 2nd Grade:

Simon*     So are you having trouble waking up at midnight because your bed's too lumpy? Well come on over and check out our super soft beds! They bounce! They're soft!  They'll bounce you to the ceiling if you have some serious trouble getting back to sleep! Yes, they'll even bounce you outside in the middle of the night so you can make some snow angels!  Better tell your Mom first though, kids, or you won't be able to get back inside because everyone else is asleep. So come on down!  Only 19 dollars and ten cents!  Come on down during the daytime because we're closed at night, and buy one for yourself!  It's soft!

*Randeh, Sarah and Simon are, of course, not these young marketer's real names...perhaps it's just as well that the products they're hawking aren't real (except in imagination) either....


Daily Life, 96

Today in PreK music, I was introduced to a new student, who just turned four years old.

Me        We're so glad your family moved to our school!  Is Jedidiah*  your big brother, in 5th grade?

Sanika*    Yes.  All the girls love him, you know.

Me         Oh, really?

Sanika*   Yes.  It's because he's soooooo handsome.

*Jedidiah and Sanika are, of course, not the real names of this big brother and proud little sister.


Learning Link, 98

Hehehehe....a fun start for your day: Grover (who lives in the Sesame Street neighborhood, of course) learns one good way to make friends with some mean bully monsters...a minute and a half of smiling, here.

(With thanks to my friend Jonathan for the link!)


Learning Link, 97

Eight Ways to be more creative.....

Well, the actual link is to a Copyblogger post called "8 ways that crush success and stifle creativity", but the content offers helpful things to consider when looking to increase creativity, in ourselves and in others.

Here's just a taste: being willing to chart and follow your own path to success; keeping an open mind despite nay-sayers; learning to create or evaluate, not both at the same time; having confidence and being willing to tolerate ambiguity when trying out solutions.

Want more?  Check it out here.


Daily Life, 95

Kindergarten  students, shuffling down the hall in heavy snowboots, swathed to their earlobes with long scarves, encased in zippered snowsuits, dragging mittens....

Announcement over the loudspeakers:
Attention, staff and students.  Due to the extreme wind chill, there will be no outdoor recess today.

One lone, plaintive  little Kindergarten voice:   You mean we went through all that for nothing??

Learning Link, 96

Check it out....here's a compelling idea: re-creating our society so that our inherent ability to empathize is allowed to flourish.  According to Jeremy Rifkin, author of The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World of Crisis:

"What is required now is nothing less than a leap to global empathic consciousness and in less than a generation if we are to resurrect the global economy and revitalize the biosphere. The question becomes this: what is the mechanism that allows empathic sensitivity to mature and consciousness to expand through history?"    (From a  Huffington Post  article--read more,  here.)

Rifkin is the President of the Foundation on Economic Trends, and  has been an advisor to government leaders within the European Union and elsewhere.   His  books about the effects of scientific and technological changes on society  are used in universities, corporations and government agencies worldwide.

This particular talk is presented with simultaneous illustrations by RSA Animate,  and is ten minutes of absorbing information that's also fun to watch.  (Wish my notetaking skills were as well-developed as this!)

Want to listen?   Check it out here.   (Thanks to my friend Paul--who posted this on his  site, EveryDayIsAwesome.....lots of good reading there, if you're interested.)


Reality, Poetry for kids

OK, fair warning:  this poem contains puns.    I wrote it a very long time ago.....(no, I'm not implying that I've matured since then into someone who doesn't like puns....!)

At the Zoo

We went to the zoo
to see what was gnu.
We saw a duck-billed platypus
who got extremely mad at us,
and a stone tyrranosaurus
who seemed quite carnivorous.
We passed a group of Anglo-philes
who were staring at the crocodiles.
Next was the cage of the aardvark
who startled us with a loud bark
while feeding on the anopheles--
he didn't seem too hard to please!
Last we passed a large warthog
whose face looked something like a log.
We really enjoyed our trip to the zoo--
didn't ewe?

Karla, 1980s


Learning Link, 95

WOW!  Birke Baehr is an 11 year old who wanted to be an NFL football player "awhile back", but
decided he wants to become an organic farmer instead--because he'll have more impact on the world.
He also wants us to know that some kids will actually like baked kale chips, and that more kids would eat vegetables and fruit if they knew more about how their food is grown.

It's an inspiring, funny and informative five minute NextGeneration TED talk---listen for yourself, here.


Daily Life, 94

Kindergarten Music class....

Me      Hey, everybody, we're going to learn a new singing game.  It's in Spanish!

Kids     Yay!

I sang the song and explained the game, then taught the kids their part.   After they'd sung it...

Jamie*    Hey,  this is like a whole different language!

Samantha*    Yeah!  It's like another English!

*Jamie and Samantha are, of course, not these budding linguist's actual names.


Daily Life, 93

Today at 1:15pm, in First Grade Music:

Kids   Ms N! Ms N!  Look outside!  It's snowing now!

Me    Wow! It changed from rain to snow! How cool is that?

Kids  Look! It's like a blanket that's all white!

Me    Why are we sitting here?  Let's go look out the window.

So we hastened  to the windows, pressed our noses flat against the glass, and ooh'd and ahh'd.

Dancy* (in a shy, quiet whisper, with her hand on my arm, looking up at me with those big sweet eyes)   Look, Ms N,  it's even covering the wood chips.  (in the playground under the swings)

Brian*    Man!  It's piling up on the swing seats!  Look at that!

Marisa*      If Frosty really did come alive like that, I would have runned away.

Me          Why?

Marisa*   I'd be scared of some big snowman who talked to me!

Brian*     If he was a bad one, I'd just sit on him and squish him.

Chantel*   Not me!  I'd jump on his back and make him be a sled.

.....no matter how many years it happens, it's always magical if the first snowfall of the year is also when we're in school....and being with the little kids when the first snow happens is the best of all.  What a treat!

*Dancy, Brian, Marisa and Chantel are, of course, not these excited First Graders' real names. (But their excitement was real enough to charge the air with lots of joy!)